I used to believe that finding yourself could happen only once. I spent many New Year’s parties staring up at falling confetti and anticipating some major moment of self-discovery on the horizon. Maybe I would get hit by lightning or find a holy relic or share a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.
Then I realized something: I find myself almost every single day. We all do. Self-actualization does not happen in a single defining moment; it happens across countless moments, every time we have a thought or make a choice. We are constantly changing, shedding old skins, and transforming.
Here are seven ways to find yourself in 2017:
1. Start a Self-Discovery Journal
Writing about your day-to-day experiences can help you keep track of what triggers your happiness and confidence. You don’t have to write a lot – start by recording one good thing about each day. Once you see patterns developing, you can pursue more of whatever fulfils you.
2. Go Back in Time
Do you remember what made you happy as a kid? Spend an afternoon going through boxes of old stuff or talking to your siblings or parents. Your memories might inspire you to retry an old hobby or to do something you wanted to do as a kid but didn’t have the chance.
3. Try on a New Look
Take a day off from your Monday-to-Friday self. If you normally avoid makeup, try a bold red lip, or if you normally wear a lot of colors, go for an outfit that’s all black or white. Embodying a new persona can empower you to do or say things you normally wouldn’t. Have fun with it, and at the end of the day, either you’ll be glad to slip back into a more comfortable skin, or the new look will have grown on you.
“The space with the most room for you to grow is the space outside your comfort zone.”
4. Do Something that Scares You
The space with the most room for you to grow is the space outside your comfort zone. Find what you’re made of by trying an improv workshop, cliff diving, or anything else that makes your heart pound and your palms sweat. Someone I admire once told me that fear is just your body rising to an occasion. So listen to that Katy Perry song and rise. You’ll be rewarded in ways you might not expect.
5. Travel Alone
If the movies are right about one thing, it’s that travelling alone can lead to self-discovery. Remember that it’s about the journey, not the destination, so don’t stress about where you go. Whether you’re walking ancient pilgrim routes along El Camino de Santiago, like a friend of mine did last summer, or just going for a bike ride through an unexplored part of your hometown, take a minute to soak in your surroundings and let your thoughts wander.
6. Pursue Friendships that Make You Grow
The people we spend time with influence who we are. Your friends should challenge and inspire you. This year, try going out for coffee with someone you normally wouldn’t or bringing up a controversial topic with one of your current friends (LGBTQ rights, feminism, immigration policies, and so on). Embrace differences. Respectful, open-minded conversations will broaden your perspective and help you figure out where you stand in the world.
7. Lead a Movement
Taking on a leadership role can feel overwhelming, but it’s a great way to discover how you can influence and work with others to achieve a goal. Becoming more actively involved in something you’re passionate about will also reveal how your beliefs evolve the more you invest in a cause. Need an idea? If you’re a student, try starting a FLURT group on campus to talk about issues that matter to you and your peers. Get started here.
Published in the Winter 2017 issue. Read the rest of the issue for FREE here.
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